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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2005 / 19 Kislev, 5766

History, democracy and Iraq

By Niall Ferguson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I saw two of my former students last week; one I taught at Cambridge, the other at Oxford. One of them has spent the better part of the last three years on her majesty's service in southern Iraq. The other is based in Jerusalem, working to broker an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Basra and Gaza are certainly not the places I expected them to end up.


It is not, however, the fact that they are Oxbridge products — or, indeed, the fact that they are both women — that gives me hope for the future of the Middle East. It is the fact that they are historians.


After all, the forces bedeviling the Middle East today are fundamentally the same ones that tore Europe apart in the last century.


Europe a century ago was the continent through which the world's biggest geopolitical fault lines ran. Like the Middle East today, it had the allure of natural resources (coal and iron, not oil). Like the Middle East today, it had a rapidly growing population that was deeply divided along ethnic lines (though the majority were Christians, not Muslims). And like the Middle East today, it was where the tectonic plates of empire met.


Many glib commentators like to blame all the problems of the Middle East today on British and French imperial maneuvers to fashion dependencies out of the lost provinces of the Ottoman Empire — as if malicious European diplomats somehow invented the ancient fissures between Shiites and Sunnis, or willfully encouraged Jewish settlers to colonize Palestine.


In truth, the post-1918 order was remarkably successful in preventing Arab nationalism from becoming a source of support for the Axis powers during World War II.


The subsequent American dominance of the region (from the mid-1940s on) was based on an unlikely combination of special relationships with Wahhabism (Saudi Arabia) and Zionism (Israel). Although it managed to check Soviet ambitions in the region, the U.S. struggled to keep the peace.


After the Iranian revolution, the U.S. played the balance-of-power game, treating Saddam Hussein as a useful counterweight. But dissatisfaction with this murky strategy prompted the so-called neoconservatives to devise a radical new strategy. The region could be stabilized (and the security of Israel enhanced) by a forcible democratic revolution, beginning in Iraq.


It was from the outset a strategy based more on political science than on history. The "democratic peace" theory states that two democracies are always and everywhere less likely to go to war with one another than two dictatorships, or a democracy and a dictatorship. The neocons inferred from this that a more democratic Middle East would be a more peaceful Middle East.


Thursday's election in Iraq is being interpreted in Washington as evidence that the neocon approach may yet work. Certainly, the high turnouts recorded — especially in Sunni areas — are the nicest Christmas present a beleaguered President Bush could have wished for.


And recent polls are reassuring as well (Harold Pinter, please note): 80% of people in the mainly Kurdish provinces and 58% in the mainly Shiite provinces think the U.S. was "right to invade Iraq"; 70% of all Iraqis approve of the new constitution. Yes, two-thirds of Iraqis want the American troops to go home. But most Americans feel the same way.


Yet history offers a salutary warning. Even a complete success in Iraq would leave an awful lot of non-democracies right next door, notably Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is now the principal menace to stability in the region. In any case, what the democratic peace theory doesn't tell you is the number of countries that have plunged into civil war after democratization.


Call this scenario the "win-lose" outcome. The U.S. wins in the sense that Iraq has successfully held two elections and a referendum. But the U.S. loses because democracy lays bare the deep differences between Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.


You end up not with a democratic peace but with a democratic war as the Kurds take up arms to fight for independence and the Sunnis do likewise to reassert their traditional dominance.


Just look again at the numbers. In the Sunni areas, just 16% think the U.S. was right to invade. The Sunnis account for about 20% of Iraq's population. And a recent nationwide poll suggests that their fellow Iraqis expect them to receive only 5% or 10% of the country's oil revenues. It is not hard to see what issue will be No. 1 when the new parliament meets.


Iraq could easily go the way of Lebanon in the late 1970s, only bigger and bloodier. And such a war could easily escalate into a regional conflict.


If the history of 20th century Europe is anything to go by, all the ingredients are now in place for the biggest conflagration in Middle Eastern history. The only good news is that the first thing to go up in smoke will be the theory of a democratic peace.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


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Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.

11/22/05: Ghost of Napoleon haunts Tony Blair
11/22/05: Can it happen in Britain too?
11/15/05: Red plus blue equals purple
11/10/05: The fires of disintegration
11/01/05: Triumph of an über-wonk

© 2005, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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